Things will get bet­ter: Ball

Pre­mier sums up 2016 and looks ahead to 2017

The Southern Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAMES MCLEOD jm­cleod@thetele­gram.com Twit­ter: @tele­gramjames

To­wards the start of the tra­di­tional year-end in­ter­view with The Tele­gram, Pre­mier Dwight Ball did a pretty good job of sum­ming up New­found­land and Labrador pol­i­tics in 2016.

“One of the eas­i­est things for other politi­cians to do is blame an­other politi­cian,” he said.

Ball was talk­ing about the op­po­si­tion par­ties, who have ham­mered him for the past 12 months for per­ceived dis­hon­esty, bro­ken prom­ises and dither­ing.

But the ob­ser­va­tion cuts the other way, too, as Ball ex­plained why he needed to de­liver a tough bud­get and aban­don those elec­tion prom­ises.

“I just com­pare it to if I was a first re­spon­der show­ing up to an emer­gency scene: the first thing you’ve got to do is se­cure the site,” Ball said.

“We had to se­cure this prov­ince. It was as sim­ple as that. We could never move on with some of those com­mit­ments with­out mak­ing sure the fi­nan­cial house was in or­der.”

The emer­gency scene that Ball is de­scrib­ing, of course, is the bud­get sit­u­a­tion left by the pre­vi­ous Tory gov­ern­ment, with a deficit of more than $2 bil­lion, and a hy­dro­elec­tric megapro­ject in Labrador that was well on the way to be­ing of­fi­cially clas­si­fied as a “boon­dog­gle.”

On the bud­get, Ball fully ad­mits he could have done bet­ter. “Early on, did we make some mis­takes? Yeah, we did. As a new gov­ern­ment, we made some mis­takes. I didn’t do a very good job, and I’ll take re­spon­si­bil­ity for this,” he said.

“We didn’t spend any money com­mu­ni­cat­ing the bud­get. Oth­ers did it for us and so we should have got out, I think, in ad­vance of the bud­get and ar­tic­u­lated to peo­ple — No. 1, why we’re do­ing what we’re do­ing here, the sit­u­a­tion that we’re into and then the good things that were in the bud­get.”

Back in the spring, one of the en­dur­ing crit­i­cisms of the bud­get was that it was a hope­less doc­u­ment — full of tough choices and painful cuts, but no sense of op­ti­mism for the fu­ture.

On that point, Ball said it was a nec­es­sary thing, again im­plic­itly lay­ing the blame at the feet of the pre­vi­ous Tory gov­ern­ment.

“It was a re­al­ity check,” he said.

“We had lived on, in some ways, false hope and false op­ti­mism. And peo­ple were told all these won­der­ful things, but their fu­ture wasn’t se­cured.”

Ball said he’s op­ti­mistic about 2017.

“I am hope­ful about 2017 and 2018 and beyond, be­cause we’ve put in mea­sures now to make sure that is se­cure,” he said.

“In this econ­omy, when a busi­ness closes up it seems like it gets mag­ni­fied. But when you look at PAL, as an ex­am­ple, there’s an­other com­pany where they’ve got this at­ti­tude that they’re go­ing to grow, and they’re grow­ing in New­found­land and Labrador.”

Shortly af­ter speak­ing to The Tele­gram, Ball headed to the air­port to par­tic­i­pate in a me­dia event with PAL high­light­ing the com­pany’s work with the armed forces on new air­planes.

“We didn’t spend any money com­mu­ni­cat­ing the bud­get. Oth­ers did it for us and so we should have got out, I think, in ad­vance of the bud­get and ar­tic­u­lated to peo­ple — No. 1, why we’re do­ing what we’re do­ing here, the sit­u­a­tion that we’re into and then the good things that were in the bud­get.” Pre­mier Dwight Ball

JOE GIBBONS/THE TELE­GRAM

Pre­mier Dwight Ball along­side the Christ­mas tree in the main lobby of the Con­fed­er­a­tion Build­ing on Tues­day, Dec. 20.

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